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Archive for the ‘Charles Burns’ Category

McSweeney’s #13 (2006)

13SOUNDTRACKPARTS & LABOR-Stay Afraid (2006).

partslaborParts & Labor have changed t heir style over the years going from noisemakers who have a melody to being melodious noisemakers.  This album is one of their earlier releases when noise dominated.  Right from the opening you know the album is going to be a challenge.  The first song has pounding drums (electronics that sound like bagpipes) and heavy distorted shouty vocals.  By the end of the songs there is squealing feedback, punk speed drums and screaming distorted vocals (complete with space sound effects).  It’s an aggressive opening for sure.  Song two opens with a long low rumbling and then “Drastic Measures” proves to be another fast-paced song.

“A Pleasant Stay” is 5 minutes long (most of the rest of the album’s songs are about 3 minutes).  It continues in this fast framework, although it has a bit more open moments of just drums or just vocals.  The way the band plays with feedback in the last minute or so of the song  very cool.

“New Buildings” has a hardcore beat with a guitar part that sounds sped up.  “Death” is a thumping song (the drums are very loud on this disc), while “Timeline” is two minutes of squealing guitars.  “Stay Afraid” has a false start (although who knows why–how do these guys know if the feedback sounds are what  they wanted anyhow?).  The song ends with 30 seconds of sheer noise).  The album ends with the 5 minute “Changing of the Guard” a song not unlike the rest of the album–noisy with loud drumming and more noise.

The album is certainly challenging, it’s abrasive and off putting, but there;s surprising pleasures and melodies amidst the chaos.   Indeed, after a listen or two you start to really look forward to the hooks.  If you like this sort of thing, this album s a joy.  It’s also quite brief, so it never overstays its welcome.

[READ: April 15, 2011] McSweeney’s #13

I have been looking forward to reading this issue for quite some time.  Indeed, as soon as I received it I wanted to put aside time for it.  It only took eight years.  For this is the fabled comics issue.  Or as the cover puts it: Included with this paper: a free 264 page hardcover.  Because the cover is a fold-out poster–a gorgeous broadside done by Chris Ware called “God.”  And as with all Chris Ware stories, this is about life, the universe and everything.  On the flip side of the (seriously, really beautiful with gold foil and everything) Ware comic are the contributors’ list and a large drawing that is credited to LHOOQ which is the name of Marcel Duchamp’s art piece in which he put a mustache on the Mona Lisa.  It’s a kind of composite of the history of famous faces in art all done in a series of concentric squares.  It’s quite cool.

So, yes, this issue is all about comics.  There are a couple of essays, a couple of biographical sketches by Ware of artists that I assume many people don’t know and there’s a few unpublished pieces by famous mainstream artists.  But the bulk of the book is comprised of underground (and some who are not so underground anymore) artists showing of their goods.  It’s amazing how divergent the styles are for subject matter that is (for the most part) pretty similar: woe is me!  Angst fills these pages.  Whether it is the biographical angst of famous artists by Brunetti or the angst of not getting the girl (most of the others) or the angst of life (the remaining ones), there’s not a lot of joy here. Although there is a lot of humor.  A couple of these comics made it into the Best American Comics 2006.

There’s no letters this issue, which makes sense as the whole thing is Chris Ware’s baby.  But there are two special tiny books that fit nearly into the fold that the oversized cover makes.  There’s also two introductions.  One by Ira Glass (and yes I’d rather hear him say it but what can you do).  And the other by Ware.  Ware has advocated for underground comics forever and it’s cool that he has a forum for his ideas here.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read prose from him before. (more…)

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believerA few years ago I was visiting my friend Roman.  He asked me if I read The Believer.  I told him I hadn’t heard of it.  He silently reproved me, knowing that it would be right up my alley and being quite displeased that I wasn’t keeping up with the hip.  I was very impressed with what I saw.

The Believer is put out through McSweeney’s.  It seems to have filled in for the non-fiction niche that McSweeney’s slowly removed from its pages.

And since then, I have become a devoted follower.  At some point (probably around issue ten or eleven) I decided that I was going to read every word in every issue.  And so, (this was pre-kids) when I went to an ALA conference with Sarah, I spent a lot of the down time reading all of the back issues’ articles that I hadn’t read.

Since then, I have read every issue cover to cover.  The thing that I love about the magazine (in addition to all of the stuff that I would normally like about it) is that every article is so well written that even if I don’t care about the subject, I know I’ll be interested for the duration of the piece.  Whether or not I will go on to read anything else about the person or topic is neither here nor there, but when I’m in the moment I’m really hooked. (more…)

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black-holeSOUNDTRACK: BLACK MOUNTAIN–In the Future (2008).

black-mountainAn ironically titled disc, surely.  Black Mountain is a Vancouver-based band that specializes in 70’s era psychedelia with a heavy dose of Black Sabbath.  Yet, like Dungen or other bands that tread this “revivalist” style, they don’t mimic the sound..they definitely sound contemporary, but the vibes of the 70s are constant.

Black Mountain features two singers: Stephen McBean and Amanda Webber.  Webber’s voice in particular harkens back to an amalgamation of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, Nancy Wilson and the collective voice of Fleetwood Mac. McBean sounds like several singers of the era too.

“Stormy High” opens the album with the best Black Sabbath riff that Sabbath never wrote.  It sounds like something straight out of Sabotage.  “Angels” slows things down into a kind of Bad Company vibe, complete with trippy 70s keyboards in the middle of the song.  “Wucan” sounds more contemporary (the vocals in particular remind me of something, but I can’t place it) and “Stay Free” is a nice acoustic ballad.  “Queens Will Play” gives Webber the spotlight and the song in particular sounds like a wonderfully creepy take on Fleetwood Mac.

Although some of the songs are longish (6-8 minute), most of them are fairly brief.  Except, of course, for the 16 minute “Bright Lights”.  I think it’s fair to say that 8 minutes could be cut off of this song and it would still be great.  The middle riff-tastic part is really fantastic, but the opening and the noodley keyboard solo could easily be lopped off.

The disc also came with a bonus disc of 3 songs.  Each one adds to the mythos of this fascinating band.  I’m curious about their debut release as well.

[READ: November 8, 2008] Black Hole

My friend Andrew loaned me this book.  I had recently read an interview with Charles Burns in The Believer (and more abou that in a moment), which excerpted this book.  It looked really good, but then I promptly forgot about it.  And Andrew filled in the gap for me.

Charles Burns’ work appears in astonishingly diverse places.  I know him mostly because he is the cover heavy-metalartist for The Believer, (his interview in that magazine is pretty great) and his been since its inception. But I also know him from the early 80s when he was an artist with Heavy Metal magazine–when I did a search for this magazine, this was one of the results, and I distinctly remember it being in my magazine collection (gosh, some 25 years ago?). (more…)

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